One of the greatest players of this age, a Grand Slam champion, fights back from the edge of retirement and serious physical setbacks to challenge the top players in the world once more despite widespread and understandable scepticism. He does this despite the fact that many people have written him off.
It is the overwhelming story of the opening week of the 2022 U.S. Open, with Serena Williams overcoming the combined ravages of time and degradation to bulldoze her way into the third round. Serena Williams has a chance to win the tournament.
But she is not the only one in this situation.
Ten years after he became the first man from Britain to win a Grand Slam singles championship since Fred Perry in 1936, Andy Murray once again became the player no one really wanted to face in his first two matches. This occurred exactly 10 years after he became the first man from Britain to win a Grand Slam singles championship. Back in 2015, he said that he was considering leaving his job because the pain in his hip was so bad that it made him have trouble doing even the simplest of chores, such as putting on his shoes and socks.
Murray was an unseeded player, he only had one complete human hip, and despite his intense ambition to break into the top 30 in the world in the weeks leading up to the U.S. Open, he had a terrible to middling summer on the hard courts of North America. He is 35 years old, but it seems like he has aged several months every time he steps onto the court, judging by the furrowed brow and overall gloomy face he normally maintains from the moment he hits the first ball until the end of the match. That’s not even including the grumpy conversations he conducts with himself during almost all of the games he plays.
And there was enough of that on Friday as Murray suffered through a four-set loss to Italian Matteo Berrettini, who defeated him 6-4, 6-4, 7-6(1), 6-3. The match lasted three hours and 47 minutes and was frustrating for Murray, at least.
After defeating Emilio Nava, a 20-year-old American qualifier, in four sets on Wednesday, Murray stated, “My mobility around the court is terrific right now.” Nava was competing for the United States. “I don’t think it’s that simple for players to knock wins past me, and I’m defending in the corners lot better than I was here a year ago,” he said.
Even this version of Murray, who has spent the better part of the last several months hanging around the 50th spot in the world rankings and who was not even in the top 100 as recently as January, was a big favourite to win that match. After not advancing beyond the second round of the U.S. Open in the previous six years, he advanced to the third round thanks to the victory.
Given his performance as of late, it was not at all likely that he would defeat Francisco Cerundolo of Argentina, who was the 24th seed in the opening round. It was the first time in the last five years that he won a Grand Slam event without dropping a set.
The 13th seed Berrettini, who was a finalist at Wimbledon the previous year and had a serve and forehand that resemble hammers, offered a new degree of difficulty in the match. Both of these shots are pretty comfortable for Murray. He and Berrettini train together very often, and they just completed a testosterone-fueled session as part of their preparation for this competition. Berrettini said that all of them were tied at 5-5 and that they played a tiebreaker, which he won since other players had reserved the court and were waiting. This information is irrelevant, however.
During Murray’s five-year journey through debilitating pain and rehabilitation from two hip surgeries, the second of which was a major procedure to resurface the top of the thigh bone and replace the hip socket and cartilage with a metal shell, Berrettini, who is 26 years old, is the type of younger player who is at the top of his powers. Murray has rarely been able to get past younger players who are at the top of their powers.
It is quite an accomplishment. In point of fact, Murray sees himself more as a test subject than anything else in the experiment. A few years ago, he was informed by some very knowledgeable individuals that he would once again be able to play tennis, but that he would not be able to compete at a professional level. Now, he is attempting to determine to what extent he can demonstrate that they have been in the wrong.